Finally the saffron banner that proudly stated: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh was tied up and in place. After an exhausting 45 minutes, a few other sevikas and I stood, staring at our work. The banner hung perfectly over the picture of Bharat Mata, above the dwaja.
Everybody has a particularly memorable event during their summer vacations; mine was Sangha Shikshika Varg (SSV). SSV is a seven day, once a year training camp for swayamsevaks. On the east coast, this year SSV was held from July 8 th-15th at two college campuses in Albany, New York—Troy campus for sevikas and Albany campus for sevaks. In these short seven days, shibirarthis were trained in various activities, which can be classified as sharirik (physical) and boudhik (intellectual).
Much of sharirik is what we did in shaka (BalaGokulam), which we attended twice a day at SSV. Between the two shaka sessions, we learned a great deal. Every morning, we would practice our Suryanamaskar and learn six new asanas, each helping a different part of the body. We were also taught self-defense in two different forms: danda and niyuddha (Indian martial arts). To help build a sense of cooperation and teamwork, we learned yogchap (a musical instrument) and took part in vyam yog exercises and pyramids.
We were also able to improve on the basic skills needed to conduct and participate in shaka effectively during samata and achar paddhati/shikshan viddhi. In samata, we were taught to follow Sanskrit commands, march, and so on; while in achar paddhati/shikshan viddhi we were taught how to properly start/end shaka and how to teach/ deal with different situations. One of the most enjoyable parts of shaka was definitely the sessions of khel (we one session of khel in both our morning and evening shakas). In addition to the competitive fun we had playing, we learned countless new games to bring back to our respective shakas. A final part of sharirik (which wasn’t included within the shaka sessions) was ghosh. In this, all the shibirarthis learned to play either the anakh (drums) or vamshi (recorder).
A good swayamsevak cannot only be physically fit, but must be mentally fit as well. To make sure of this, the shibirarthis were immersed in boudhik activities. We were taught two geets, both of which promoted patriotism and selfless service to mankind. Also, we attend numerous boudhiks (lectures) and churchas (discussions) over the course of the week. In these, we were taught everything from how to be an effective karyakarta (volunteer worker) to the basic tenets of Hinduism and talk about everything from the challenges of growing up as a Hindu in America to how to start a new shaka. In addition to all the practical, daily-life topics we conversed about, we also learned about multiple great leaders, during the nighttime katha (story time). Some of the noble personalities we learned about include Swami Vivekanada, Shri PP Guruji Golwalkar, and Vandaneeya Mousiji.
In addition to the physical, intellectual, and leadership skills and we acquire throughout the day, we improved on other abilities through our night activities. During our full-fledged debates and other similar games, we would develop our speaking skills. In the intense games of jeopardy and charades, we would answer questions about the Ramayana and Mahabharata, broadening our knowledge of the topics. Our talents were also showcased on the last night when we had manoranjan (similar to a talent night). All the shibirarthis performed in dances, songs, instruments, and humorous skits.
SSV ended with samarop (the concluding ceremonies which would include our pradarshans—the display of all the different skills we learned) on the last day. On the final day, the sevikas’ and sevaks’ camps joined together to show our family and friends what we had accomplished.
I’ve been able to recite the Sangh Prathana from memory since I was eight years old, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I actually began to understand all the meaning behind it. On the final day, Venkateshji addressed all the sevaks and sevikas. He mentioned quite a few things, but the one that is the most prominent in my memory is this:
Although you’ve all taken exams, the real test is what you all do within the next three months. Your actions will determine how much you’ve actually learned. How well you did in SSV is not reflected by your test scores, it is reflected by what you do in the next three months , in the rest of your lives.
The little something I left SSV with was a greater understanding of the goals, values, and beliefs of HSS and the friendships of a few incredible people whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
–By Ashwini Javlekar (grade 9)